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PREVIEW: New York City FC vs. Chicago Fire

Vieira's Blues look to score their first home win of 2016 against the team they bested to open the campaign.

Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Through four games, NYCFC has taken five points out of a possible twelve, and just two of nine at home.

But if you're a fan of the Bronx Blues, two facts have you resting pretty easy ahead of tonight's Yankee Stadium clash against Chicago:

  1. The Blues have already defeated the Fire this year.
  2. The Red Bulls are second-bottom in the East, sporting a stunning -7 goal differential.
So you've got that going for you.

Tonight marks just the second time the Fire have had to hit the road this year. In their one previous trip, Veljko Paunovic's boys took a point from Orlando City down at the Citrus Bowl on March 11th. In Chicago's only other trip to the Bronx last spring, Khiry Shelton scored his first-ever MLS goal in stoppage time to steal a 2-2 result.

NYCFC's opening day win at Toyota Stadium, a frenetic 4-3 affair, was anything but a complete performance for the Sky Blues. While the Chicago net wasn't exactly elusive -- Shelton notched his second goal in as many games against the Fire -- New York City's defending was shook. Down the Blues' right flank, David Accam simply ate Ethan White's lunch.

As it stands, however, Accam is listed out in today's injury report with a knee sprain, having already missed last Saturday's Chicago win over Philadelphia. Even if Accam manages to pull a Willis Reed, Ethan White will be mercifully denied the opportunity to get ripped asunder yet again: following Andoni Iraola's return to the right side of the NYCFC defense, the former Bilbao skipper has posted 180 minutes of quality ball, as well as dat nasty backheel setup against New England.

Another player sure to get his first crack at the Fire is Stiven Mendoza, the live-wire wide man. "NoDoz" is just about due for a goal-- he matches blistering athleticism with keener touch and decision-making than either Tony Taylor or Khiry Shelton. Surely in line to start the match, look for Vieira to turn the Bulldoza loose tonight.

Another potential wrinkle to keep an eye on: last time out against New England, David Villa found himself taking up a left winger's space, eschewing his typical striker role up top. In subsequent training sessions, Vieira gave both Mendoza and Patrick Mullins a chance to play the center-forward role, with Villa sticking to that left flank. Is this a possibility for this evening, with Taylor or Shelton off to the right? I'd say more than a possibility-- when it comes to Patrick Vieira, no shape is too unorthodox.

Oh, and Frank Lampard is still hurt.

BTW, GUESS WHO THE REFEREE IS

It's this guy, woooooo!

PROJECTED LINEUPS
New York City:

Chicago:

INJURED & ABSENT

New York City:

OUT: Connor Brandt (core muscle repair), Frank Lampard (gastrocnemius inflammation)

DISABLED LIST: Jack Harrison (pelvis injury)

Chicago:

OUT: David Accam (left knee sprain), Sean Johnson (right wrist sprain)

FLY, MY PRETTIES, FLY

EDITORS' PREDICTION

New York City 3, Chicago Fire 1.
The time off serves Vieira's boys well. Villa 8', Mendoza 14', Igboaninike 45', Mullins 88'. NYCFC jumps five points clear of the Red Bulls.